Mrunal Manmay Dash

When the Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha government made Odia language mandatory for all official communications back in August 2016, language experts were quite hopeful of the revival of the language. However, little did they know that the announcement would remain only in pen & paper.

As the world observes International Mother Language Day on February 21, Odia, the mother tongue in Odisha, is allegedly lying in neglect.

When OTV looked around in Khordha, the district that houses the Capital City of the State, almost every government communication and signage appeared to be in English. From Tourism department map to the signboards displaying directions to the govt offices, English was all-pervasive.

Even the Information & Public Relations department office and the Collector’s office have signage in English and not in Odia, which has been abhorred by many language experts.

“Language is a means to acquire knowledge. Despite a resolution back in 1954 for using Odia language in all official communications, it is not diligently followed yet,” said, Odia language movement activist, Bhimasen Pradhan.

Another language activist, Krushna Chandra Pradhan from Khordha said, “In fact, not only State government departments, but shops, business establishments and private organisations too seem to have rejected Odia language from their advertisements and sign boards."

“The government made the rule and sat on it. There are provisions of fines for defaulters. Who will punish them if the government departments themselves flout the rules,” asked educationist, Pradyumna Satapathy.

District Culture Officer of Khordha, Choudhury Arvind Das said, “We are observing Mother Language Day today. All the departments were notified to use Odia language and script on signboards and other official communications by the government. We can use English but Odia should also be used alongside. The Labour Department is enforcing the rule on ground.”

According to the Odisha Official Language (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016, the state govt can penalise anyone who violates the code with a fine of Rs 2,000. For government employees, the fine is stipulated at Rs 10,000.